The benefits of upskilling your workforce

Guest Author: Suzanne Lees-Jones Labour Market Information and Resources Coordinator – North East Ambition

As businesses navigate through the pandemic and reports suggest that the labour market is beginning to stabilise, firms will no doubt be assessing their workforce, strategy and plans for the future. This could be seen as a really good time to think about upskilling existing staff. But what is upskilling and how can it benefit your business?

Invest in your staff

Upskilling is a way to provide an employee with more advanced skills through additional education and training. It can also be seen as a much smaller investment than hiring and training a new member of staff. According to a Learning for Life report[1] by the CBI it will cost four times as much to retrain a worker than to upskill them. Additionally, an estimated 80% of the required upskilling investments will generate positive returns for the business that makes the investment.

Reasons to upskill your workforce

If you decide to upskill an employee, it can be a win-win situation for you both. McKinsey[2] found that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. With that in mind, some advantages to upskilling would be that it can boost morale and so improve staff retention. It could help an employee to master their current role, embrace the love of learning and even motivate top talent.

Plugging the skills gaps in the North East

With nine out of ten UK employers struggling to recruit the skills they need, upskilling could be a solution. Think about your current skills shortages. Digital is likely to be on your list. A Digital Exclusion report[3] by the North East LEP found that many people in work lack the digital skills required for their job as it has evolved, and others are excluded from jobs altogether due to lack of digital skills.

Interestingly, the top three IT skills in demand[4], according to online job postings in the North East, are Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Word. With some strategic workforce planning and looking at the current capabilities of your employees, there could be a real value to upskilling.

Use the end of furlough and the apprenticeship levy to your advantage

As the furlough deadline has now passed, many affected employees might have used their time wisely to upskill. Alternatively, some of your employees that have been on furlough could now be in a great position to be upskilled. Recent data from Make it Click[5] found that 57% of furloughed workers wanted to improve their digital and IT skills. It is also worth remembering that the apprenticeship levy can be used to upskill and train your existing staff.

How do you upskill your business?

Upskilling can be a vital part of keeping your team productive, but it can also be very time consuming, confusing, and overwhelming. There is plenty of support available to help you.

The North East Ambition programme

North East Ambition is funded by the European Social Fund and delivered by Education Development Trust in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. It is a programme of free support for SMEs based in the North East, designed to ensure local businesses are taking advantage of the opportunities available to them to develop and upskill their workforce.

The programme can help you, free of charge, to devise a Training Needs Analysis and identify your business’s skills gaps, understand the needs of your business and access the right training and funding.


[1] learning-for-life-report.pdf (



[4] Labour Insight, Burning Glass Technologies – online advertised vacancies in the last 6 months to August 2021

[5] Make it Click 2020

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